Modernism notwithstanding, humanity is a deeply tribal species, and we misunderstand it if we understand it in any terms but tribal terms. This misunderstanding skews and distorts our worldview; it results in downstream consequences that are counter-productive to our capacity for navigating effectively the various trials and tribulations of daily life. Therefore, if we are to ensure a desirable future for our children and grandchildren, we must correct our worldview. And in this, we must be brutally honest with ourselves.
The human species spent thousands of years in small, tightly-knit groups of individuals who shared virtually all aspects of culture: art, language, religion, and philosophy. These groups rarely numbered greater than 200-300 persons. Relationships were close; each member of the tribe was fully dependent upon every other member of the tribe. The tribe was more than family; it was survival and mutual sacrifice.
These circumstances resulted in deeply-embedded psychological patterns that still determine our behavior today. And although we all may wish to believe that we are fully free in our decisions, most of our behaviors are unconscious- and those unconscious behaviors are driven by tribal experience, written into our DNA by evolutionary pressures spanning many millennia. Society too has been affected by these patterns of behavior, and we can see them in every aspect of social life: We see these patterns in nations; we see these patterns in families and in friendships; we see these patterns in sports and in big business and in military organizations. Wherever we look, we see tribalism- but we do not wish to see it, and so we pretend to be blind to its consequences.
But there is another way. For tribalism cannot be destroyed; nor can it be suppressed without making us all sicker, dumber, and weaker (for tribalism does have its purposes). And so instead of rebelling against these tribal patterns of behavior, we could each choose to embrace them in order to turn them to our collective advantage. How could this be accomplished?
Our shared psychological tribalism ought to inform the entirety of our understanding of the world, not to mention how we ought to act in order to navigate it effectively. It ought to affect our ideas about everything: self, family, friendship, religion, politics, socio-economics, etc. And it ought to affect how we plan to accomplish not only our personal goals but also our professional goals. For when we blind ourselves to human nature, we render ourselves less efficient in overcoming the many obstacles that will inevitably present themselves throughout the course of life.
Socrates famously commanded- in keeping with one of seven maxims etched across the door of the Oracle at Delphi- to "know thyself" (γνῶθι σεαυτόν). And this applies to tribalism as well. For we cannot know ourselves if we refuse to admit the central operating principle of human psychology. This kind of myopia is catastrophic; it virtually precludes us from leading successful lives.
Fortunately, we can always choose the path of wisdom.
~ Joshua van Asakinda
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Joshua van Asakinda is a master-level psychological consultant, and the creator of ZenTactics, Heroic Theory, & Zenshida'i Silat-Serak.